September 12, 2008
COMMERCIAL, RETAIL, AUTO, FABRICATION : HUMAN RESOURCES
This article is the second in a five-part Your Profits: People series. See related content on Page 80 in the Retail Glass section, and Page 90 in the Auto Glass section, for reader submitted interview questions. See Page 48 in the Commercial Glass section for an example of a model job description. In the final three parts of the series, to run in the October, November and December issues, read about background checks and drug testing, training to retain employees and incentives.
Managers can set up strong training programs to teach skills and dedicate ample time to meet with employees, discuss progress and ensure expectations are met. However, they can't teach personality or force an employee to fit into the company's culture.
Industry managers say hiring an applicant with a personality that will fit with the company team can be more beneficial than simply hiring someone with a strong skill set.
"If you hire somebody that works well within the team, works well with their boss, and has basic construction skills, you can teach the rest," says Michelle Valdez, head of human resources for Walters & Wolf, Fremont, Calif. "Send them to any kind of seminar, class or training you want, but you can't teach someone to get along well with the team."
Joe Clabbers, president of National Glass and Metal Co., Horsham, Pa., agrees. "We look first at their chemistry and attitude, whether they will fit in with our organization. Then we look at their technical skills."
To assess whether an applicant will be a good fit, managers say they introduce applicants to current employees and ask behavioral questions that gauge how a person might deal with various situations.
For Thomas Huff, manager of the Delaware operations for Mr. Go-Glass in Dover, adaptability is the number one personality trait he looks for in applicants. "Every day you walk in and know your plan, but things are going to change," Huff says. "How well can that team member adapt to changing situations? Will they be able to stay until 5:30 because of something their biggest customer needs?"
For Carol Sturgill, director of marketing and sales, American Shower Door, Commerce, Calif., previous job stability indicates important personality traits. "I look for someone who has had a lot of stability and growth within another company," she says. "That means they can learn and grow."
Different positions require different personality strengths. An employee on a construction site needs to work well with others on site, respect instruction from the manager, and closely follow safety and work directions. While employees working in sales or customer services need to be extroverted and friendly.
"If people come in for a customer service job and don't get fired up, that's something you're never going to be able to teach them," Huff says.
Extremely experienced applicants may even prove to be difficult hires if they have trouble adapting to a new work environment with new policies and alternative methods, says Nathan Haffke, lead franchise development director, Glass Doctor, Waco, Texas. Workers who are new to the industry can be better than experienced employees in some cases.
"It's hard to teach an old dog new tricks," Haffke says. "Technically, [an experienced technician] knows what they're doing, but they may not execute our customer service system. Find the best glass guy in town and get that person to come on board. Pay them well, treat them well, and they can train new employees."